Presidential Perspective: PawPrints and doing what students care about

This guest blog post is by Nick Giordano, Rochester Institute of Technology 2015-2016 Student Body President.

As each Student Government President begins their term, there is always one nagging question that comes to everyone’s mind- “will the issues that my Student Government is working on be the change that students want to see on campus?” We asked ourselves that here at Rochester Institute of Technology last year, and our student government came up with a solution to be that change that students want to see: PawPrints.

PawPrints is our petition website built from the ground up here at RIT Student Government, created specifically for the RIT community. RIT students can log in with their student accounts, then create and sign petitions relevant to issues and ideas on campus. Once a petition hits a signature threshold, our Student Government takes that issue and charges it through our Senate to a committee to be solved. When a solution is found, the committee brings the idea to Senate for approval, then back to answer to petition with a final response.

Our petition website has been running for a full year, and has exploded in popularity on campus. We have received over 440 petitions that cover issues big and small across campus, while also having over 50% of the undergraduate student body- over 8,000 students- sign on to our website. The success was unprecedented- almost 15% of campus was using the site within a week of launching, and we regularly get more feedback in a month with PawPrints than an entire year previously.

What does this mean for Student Governments? It means we can finally put down the index cards, put away the poster board, and stop reaching out to collect feedback from students with unreliable methods. PawPrints naturally uses social media to gain traffic and give ideas when they come up organically- students may not be able to answer, “what would you change about our school?” on the spot, but you can bet a student will create a petition when they are looking for an outlet for change.

We have had to change how our student government fundamentally works with all of the changes that came from PawPrints, and that’s a good thing. We’ve moved away from events and programming, and into a future of actually creating change on campus by utilizing these ideas and this petition platform. A small team of us that founded this program have even assembled a small startup to get this petition platform out to other schools Student Governments, due to the overwhelming demand from other associations across the country.

If you are interested in a petition platform like this for your own school, please feel free to reach out to me personally. Every school will be better off with a petition site like PawPrints, and as long as you effectively use the information to create positive change on campus, your student body will thank you for it.

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